Societe Generale

Société Générale wants to be top brass in the French banking industry. The bank (more familiarly known as SocGen) commands a three-pronged campaign, with operations entailing domestic retail banking (including regional bank Crédit du Nord and majority-owned online bank and brokerage Boursorama), international retail banking, and corporate and investment banking. Other key activities include specialized finance, consumer finance, and insurance, and investment management, private banking, and securities services. Altogether, SocGen has more than 3,200 branches in France and nearly 4,000 additional locations in more than 75 countries worldwide.

SocGen has international banking operations in nearly 40 countries. Key markets for the segment are Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean basin, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia, particularly China, India, and Vietnam. The company's asset management operations include two joint ventures with fellow French banking giant Crédit Agricole: Amundi (25% owned) and brokerage Newedge (50%).

SocGen reported a 3% decline in net banking income for 2011, but a nearly 40% decrease in profits, from €3.9 billion to €2.4 billion (approximately $5 billion to $3.1 billion). The company attributed its results in part to a decline in corporate and investment banking earnings amid turbulent markets, as well as restructuring changes and the write down of goodwill and Greek sovereign debt.

SocGen's primary strategic initiatives include controlling risk and improving customer service. Some of the ways the bank is achieving its goals include streamlining its loan application process, increasing capital reserves, and reducing its exposure to sovereign debt of troubled countries such as Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. To help improve its capital position, SocGen announced plans to sell US asset manager TCW Group to The Carlyle Group in 2012. It's also partnering with Tikehau Group to take over French investment company Salvepar. –